Daily Republic (Fairfield, Calif.) August 22, 2005 Fighting fire with planning By Barry Eberling VACAVILLE -- Larry Bubak had no complaints when the Vacaville Fire Protection District stopped by recently to see if he had made his rural property fire-safe. He'd rather see firefighters arriving to conduct a safety inspection than coming to fight a fire, Bubak said. This Pleasants Valley location is fire country during the summer. Dry brush could easily fuel a wildfire here, just as it did on the nearby lands burned four decades ago by the Black Thursday fire. Bubak's two-decade-old home has tile shingles. He's created a fuel break near his house. He has a metal barn. He keeps the grass on his property green. "I don't know what else to do better," he said. Vacaville Fire Protection District firefighter Jason Keune looked around Bubak's property. He gave Bubak a passing grade, with honors. "If I could make a brochure on a house in the district that is safe, I'd pick this one," he said. One of the biggest safety measures is to create fuel breaks around structures. The district in some cases requires 30 feet, in other cases 100 feet, depending on the terrain. Fire Capt. Tim Walton said cutting back the weeds creates a "defensible space." "Most people cut it down to lawn level, which will slow the fire," Walton said. "If they take it down to mineral, dirt or ground, it will hopefully stop the fire spread." Another key is to make certain firefighters can reach your property quickly during a wildfire. Locked gates can hamper firefighting efforts. Walton also advised people to figure out in advance what they'd want to take with them if a wildfire were to come. There's no guarantee firefighters can save every home that takes safety precautions. Burning embers could still blow over a fuel break and land on a building. But Bubak is taking the precautions he can. He fought fires as a volunteer firefighter, including the Black Thursday fire 40 years ago. "I believe in fire protection," he said. Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.